Posts filed under Building Your Faith

Her Life Looks Great: Turning Social Media Envy Into Gratitude

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We have several options of how to utilize and respond to social media. This post is not going to tell you what you should be doing or posting. Rather, I want to encourage a perspective shift you may need--like me--as you scroll. I promise, I have no agenda here. I’m not on a soap box trying to get you to change any habits. I’m hoping to offer freedom if you also struggle with envy at times.


One night as I looked at my Facebook feed, I noticed how discouraged I felt about the trials my family was going through. It seemed like we were the only ones being hit by the storms of life. Abruptly, I opened up my camera roll and, instead of focusing on everyone else’s highlights, I looked at my own. Pictures of my baby girl, surrounded by three adoring brothers. No one even looks like they are sick. A kitchen that is gorgeous and just how I wanted it--and you can’t even tell it’s still not finished. A baby sitting atop her sweet pink play kitchen (given to us by a dear friend)… and I didn’t think about how much attention it takes to keep her safe right now. Boys that destroy playrooms because a desire for construction overtakes them… and all I saw was their precious, joyful smiles. A selfie with my boys was delightful if I didn’t focus on the fact that their dad was too exhausted to join in on the family adventure day. A children’s author we got to go see for free because our local library sponsored the event… and you can’t even tell my son’s stomach was upset due to food allergies.  Three boys teaching their sister how to sing “Jesus Loves Me” while sitting in a box. A box someone (we still can’t find out who!!!) sent us with a giant, stuffed golden retriever. And it doesn’t matter that my son is severely allergic to dogs because someone made it happen with this gift. Three mighty men walking through a nature preserve and pretending it is Narnia and Aslan is on the move. No one would know we didn’t get through as much homeschool as I wanted that day, and I spent way more time than I wanted removing the mud from their shoes when we arrived home. Boys surrounded by blankets and couch cushions and a destroyed living room that led to us hopping on lily pads to 100. Amazing Lego displays at the library. No evidence we had to rush out because a screaming little girl had had it. Eggs yolks that naturally formed a smile. The whole family in coordinating costumes. PIctures of my little girl finding the dark chocolate stash… and then her daddy’s coffee pot! A half-finished boys bedroom that will be exactly what I was hoping for when it’s finished. Boys covered in mud because they can make anything fun… and this picture holds no evidence of my needing to scrub the four rooms they tracked the mud in through the house. A video of my kids singing worship at the top of their lungs  through a locked bathroom door.

Life is a gift.

When I slow down to look at my life through these snapshots, I am overtaken by gratitude. The moments of my day strung together are breathtaking. Forget the pain. Forget the sorrow. I am abundantly blessed. No more “Her life looks great.” My life looks great.

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So I took a break from social media. Instead of taking a few minutes to scroll, I started looking through my own photos at night. Praise filled my thoughts as I meditated on God’s goodness toward my family. Honestly I was hooked. Meditating on the good moments refreshed me. Study after study confirms what God’s Word has told us--thankfulness is key. Gratitude produces joy in us.

 So, my Sweet Sister, do you struggle with envy at times? Do you need to look at your own blessings and stand in awe of how God is working in your own life? I pray you find the joy and strength there to do well another day....Or to start fresh another day. As Betsy reminds us, “Every day counts”, and you have what you need to do it joyfully dear Mama.

Posted on December 14, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Phases vs Lifestyles: What a Determined Plant Has Taught Me

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My in-laws live on a 200-acre farm in southern Kentucky. My favorite time of year to visit them is in the fall because the southern heat and humidity have eased and the rolling hills are yellowed with drying hay and bean crops.

When I can get myself out of bed at a decent time, I like to take morning walks along the paved driveway between the farmhouse and the main road.

It’s a pretty and serene walk as the road rises and falls with the land. As I was walking one morning last fall, I looked down at the side of the driveway and was so intrigued by what I saw that I stopped, took off my head phones, and knelt down for a closer look. Growing up through the asphalt was a plant. Through the asphalt! It was yellowed like the plants in the field next to it, but it was still growing. I took some pictures with my phone and continued my walk, marveling at the determination of the plant.

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I can be a pro when it comes to determination, too. I’ve gone through phases where I’m very determined to accomplish something. For example, I pursued my Masters for three years and even switched degrees part-way through when I realized that I didn’t really want an MBA; I wanted a Masters in writing. And when my husband and I bought our townhome in 2008, I spent hours poring over paint chips, curtain fabrics, and flooring samples. We redid the half bath and installed new light fixtures. We worked every night for weeks until we finished all the tasks on my list.

On the other hand, there have been times I’ve set out to accomplish something and have started out strong and disciplined only to falter, then give up altogether. Case in point: I’ve struggled with my weight since college. I’ve lost and gained as much as 60 pounds twice just in the past seven years. I start strong and have at times kept up with a pattern of healthy eating and exercising for a year or more. But, inevitably, I allow life to derail me and now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been and feel miserable.

I also struggle to be consistent in my time with the Lord. A lot. I start strong, spending time in the Word, praying, and being conscious of my thoughts and temper. Then I trick myself into thinking that other tasks like a load of laundry are more important than praying. One misstep leads to another, I feel defeated, and then I give up altogether.

It’s taken me a long time (an embarrassingly long time) to figure out why I’m successful in some things but not others. It’s because some are actual phases and some are meant to be life-long disciplines. Phases aren’t permanent routines – they’re temporary. Life-long disciplines last for…well, a lifetime. Most people can stick with something when they know there’s an end point – even something as fun as decorating my new house was sure to feel cumbersome if it lasted for more than a year.

Many of us like to have a starting point and an ending point. We want to know how long we need to push and work because it gives us hope and encouragement. We know there’s an end so we can hammer through with determination and persistence until that end comes.

But some things in life don’t have a stopping point that we can look forward to – we won’t have that specific moment when we know we’ve finished the task and can relax. My physical well-being won’t be perfected until I take my last breath. My spiritual well-being won’t be perfected until I take my last breath. I need to continually work in both areas of my life; I’ll never get to a point where I can or should stop working on them.

Both my physical and spiritual well-being are vital. And yet, these are the two parts of my life where I’m the most lazy. That’s the plain and simple truth: I’m lazy.

I’m empathizing more and more with Paul as I age. In Romans 7, he expressed sorrow and frustration over being divided within himself. His will was torn. Flesh versus spirit. Romans 7:19 says, “For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want” (NASB). While I may not be purposefully practicing evil, I’m still practicing it because I’m not doing what I know I should and can do. When I think about it that way, it’s very convicting.

For me, it’s come down to this: I can’t think of my desire for a healthier body as a phase. And I can’t think of my desire for a healthier spiritual life as a phase. They’re disciplines. They’re lifestyles.

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So, now what? Now that I’m confessing this openly, I need to have a game plan. The first thing I need to do is to find what works – what type of eating and exercising regimen will I realistically stick to? And what kind of personal time with the Lord is most realistic based on how my days flow and where I’m at in terms of kids at home, work, etc.?

A second thing I need to do is print the picture of that plant I found in Kentucky. The plant has taught me and continues to remind me that while it’s not easy, it’s possible to pursue physical and spiritual health for my lifetime. I won’t be perfect as I move forward, but I can and must choose to persist in doing what I know I should do and not doing what I know I should not do.

Posted on August 22, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

The Last Lemon Cake: A story about submission and the tender loving care that God the Father had for our three sons

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A lemon cake is baking in my oven right now.  It is the 13th lemon cake baked in my kitchen in as many years.  Here is the true story of why, and how and who it is for. On January 6 of 2003, a day we’ve come to call Bloody Monday, David was told that he no longer had a job—as of that day! 

 

The natural reaction to conserve kicked in.  He called to let me know this had occurred and that there would be a moratorium on spending. 

My deepest concern, even more than the natural reaction of “what are we going to live on?” was how my sons would perceive God, what would they think of him when the church that claims to love and obey him was so callous?  Would they be able to separate the two?  Would this shipwreck their faith?  I pondered this for a couple of days.

Meanwhile, I realized I had made commitments, which I felt would have to be fulfilled, regardless.  The first of these promises was a batch of cookies.  These had to be made and taken to the kindergarten class to celebrate Michael’s 6th birthday.  They were going to be Veggie Tale cookies.  I already had the cookie cutters: Bob the tomato and Larry the cucumber and budgeted for the baking ingredients.  I also told Michael that I would get a lemon cake mix per his request,  and bake it for his special day which would be on that Wednesday.  While shopping for the cookie ingredients and cake mix, I remembered that I actually had a yellow cake mix at home already!  I had to honor David’s wishes—no extra spending! Yikes!!!  Although I felt in good conscience about spending for the cookies to give away, I didn’t feel as free to buy another cake mix—a lemon cake mix—when I had a perfectly good yellow cake mix at home.  I would just have to explain it to Michael—he would understand, after all he would be 6 years old! When I broke the news to him he accepted it like a little man!  Phew!

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It was now Wednesday, January 8, Michael’s birthday. I started to bake that yellow but decidedly very un-lemon cake!  First, however, I would need to get my mixer blades back from my neighbor, Laura, who had borrowed them some time ago. I called that morning to say that I was baking that afternoon (I did not tell her why or what) and could I pick up my mixer blades?     I went over later and she handed me a grocery bag with some movies she’d borrowed,  the mixer blades and since she’d been feeling guilty for keeping my stuff for so long, she threw in something from her pantry…a lemon cake mix!  I remember pulling that out and giving it to Michael, he began running around the house shouting--“How did she know?!  How did she know?!”  I just answered, “God knew!” Right there beside me were my other two sons, Andrew and Nate.  They were seeing this miracle, knowing that no matter what or who brought us to such a difficult place that God did not forsake us and beyond that, cared for a little boy to the fine detail of the flavor of his birthday cake. I determined from then on that Michael would always have a lemon cake on his birthday and that we would remember that God cares for us personally.  He cared for my sons.  I’ll ever praise him (Psalm 146:2) and let this be a reminder that it is my job to obey—He will provide! 

Today, then, I’m baking what might just be the last lemon cake; after all Michael said recently now that he’s all grown (18 years old) this should be the last lemon cake—I didn’t promise anything!  

(Welcome guest blogger, Helen Jones, wife of Dr. David Jones, Pastor of Village Church, Barrington, IL!)

Posted on July 13, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

When it's Hard to Forgive: I’m Only Hurting Myself

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We teach our kids that it’s the right thing to do. We encourage others to do it so they can heal. We know the Bible tells us to do it and we’re only hurting ourselves if we don’t. So why do I backtrack when I’m faced with the fact that I need to extend forgiveness?

 

 

There are some situations where it’s relatively easy to forgive another person, like when my five-year-old tells me she’s sorry for being sassy. I forgive her immediately. It helps that she has red hair and is beyond adorable.

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But then there are situations that leave me so wounded that the act of forgiveness is beyond comprehension and even repulsive.

I spent most of my life in one church. It was my home. I knew most everyone and they knew me. At one point both my parents were on staff. My husband and I were married there, dedicated our three babies there, and spent countless hours serving in various ministries. There were high points and low points – just like with any church.

During a very low point, some things happened that grieved me very deeply. There were situations along the way that signaled something wasn’t right but I didn’t put the pieces together until much later. When I did finally learn the truth, I crumbled. And that’s when my husband and I felt released from the church. We didn’t want to leave if God wanted us there because it wasn’t our choice. It was His. But He let us know that He was releasing us.

For those of us who are really invested in our churches, this is a big deal. It’s painful. It’s like breaking up with someone you’ve been dating for thirty years – which was how long I had been there. There were some nights I lay on the bathroom floor, trying to stifle my sobs so I wouldn’t wake the family. I was sad and felt hopeless. I was really angry and for many reasons, reconciliation was not possible at that point.

It’s been two and a half years since we left that church but I’ve been recently hit with a 2x4 regarding everything that happened: I still haven’t extended forgiveness. I still harbor anger and bitterness toward those who hurt me. Sometimes I think I’ve moved on, but then something triggers a memory and the bitterness that I thought was gone rears its head again.

Here’s what I’m learning: For many reasons, there’s a good chance I will never be able to reconcile with those who hurt me, but I cannot continue to live with bitterness and anger. It’s strangling my heart and mind, affecting my eating habits, and I’m so very weary.

But I still don’t want to forgive because that feels like I’m letting them off the hook. I’ve been asking myself why I have to forgive at all. Why can’t I just keep living like I am – not forgiving isn’t really doing any harm, is it? “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (ESV Eph 4:32). There’s my answer. I am to forgive because Christ forgave me. It’s the right answer, but I still struggle to accept it.

My parents have a small garden on the side of their house. My mom plants cucumbers, tomatoes, and pumpkins. I love the free cucumbers. The tomatoes? I’m not a raw tomato fan so my husband eats his fill of those.

One year my mom noticed a vine growing in the garden. It had white flowers and crawled and weaved its way through the growing plants. What she didn’t realize is that while this vine was pretty, it was a killer. It was a Bindweed. It wound itself around the other vegetable plants until it strangled and killed them. What appeared to be harmless was deadly.

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The bitterness of an unforgiving heart is like this vine – deadly. I’ve known it was there, but I didn’t think it was doing any harm because as time has passed, I’m not as angry or bitter. But it’s still there, under the surface, slowly strangling my heart and the only way to kill the vine is to forgive and cut off its supply. I need to forgive even when those who hurt me haven’t apologized. I’m not responsible for them. I’m responsible for me and having an unforgiving spirit is not biblical or Christlike. It’s not what I want my kids to emulate and it’s not the example I want to set for others.

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col 3:13). The ESV says I MUST forgive. It doesn’t give me a loophole. There isn’t a clause attached to it that says I must forgive only if the other person has apologized.

I haven’t been able to completely release my anger and bitterness. It’s something I have to work on daily. But now I’m more keenly aware of it and its effect on my life – family, work, service, health. Even if I never hear a sincere apology, I will answer to God regarding my part – have I forgiven? If I don’t forgive, I’m not getting even with those who hurt me. If I don’t forgive, I’m only hurting myself.

Posted on May 24, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Wishing Life Away

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I’ve been very fortunate to have gone through the Entrusted Bible Study three times now. Two of the three years, I’ve learned from Betsy in-person as she’s taught moms at a church in the Chicago suburbs.

Each week I come away from the study with a phrase that sticks out above everything else.

I’m not always quick to put the lightbulb phrase into practice like I should, but some weeks I can’t help but ponder and act on it.

One phrase that convicted me deeply is “Wishing my life away.”

For most of my life, I’ve been wishing for the next phase:

I wished to get my masters

I wished to be married

I wished for kids

I wished to stay home with kids

I wished for more kids

I wished for kids to sleep through the night

I wished for more freelance work

I wished for less freelance work

I wished for all the kids to be in school

I’ve learned something about myself in the past couple months between the Entrusted Bible study and a sermon series at our church: I feel like I continually need something big happening in my life or I need to be planning and preparing for something big to happen – I need to have a focus. I can’t enjoy where I am. I need to do something like rearrange the house, go back to school for a second masters, or make an out-of-state move. I spend so much time longing and wishing for something new that I don’t stop to appreciate where God has me right now. And when I think about it at a deeper level, I’m convicted even more because the place I am now is the place I’ve been wishing to be!

Case in point: My husband and I prayed earnestly for children, especially after we had three back-to-back miscarriages. Now we have three kids and I’ve spent more time than I should have anticipating when they’ll all be in school. Our youngest is three and has a speech delay. Because of his speech delay, he qualifies for preschool through our district where he receives speech therapy. He’s now in school five mornings a week. Our oldest is in first grade and our middle is in pre-kindergarten three full days a week. I now have three mornings each week that I’m kid free. I didn’t think it would happen this soon and while I enjoy having these mornings to myself, I do regret spending more energy and time wishing for this phase than I should have.

In Ephesians 5:15-16, Paul warns the people of Ephesus to “be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (NASB). Am I making the most of my time? In short, no, I’m not. I spend too much time wishing for the next phase or challenge instead of cultivating a grateful heart and appreciating where I am – even in the mundane things like driving all three kids to school, picking up the youngest three hours later, and then picking up the two oldest three hours after that. That can feel like a rut really fast. But you know what? When I was single, I wished for the time when I would get to drop off and pick up my kids from school. And now I get to do that. Even the monotony of my weekdays are fulfilling the longing my heart had so many years ago.

James 1:14-17 says, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”

Is it wrong to wish for a new phase of life? No. Is it wrong to plan and work towards something? No. The problem occurs when that wishing or planning becomes the focus and obsession. When I allow myself to become obsessed with and carried away by my lusts – my plans, my wishing for something new – I am sinning.

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For the sake of my husband, kids, family, employers, and most importantly, for the sake of my relationship with God, I am determined (though I know I will fail at times) to be grateful. I look at my list of wishes from the past fifteen years and marvel at how God has worked to bring about His will in my life. Not all my wishes have come to fruition or have happened how I had hoped, but many of them have come about and the phase of life I’m in right now is one that I prayed for earnestly for many years.

I’ll still have fun thinking of how I can rearrange the house and I’ll enjoy the increasing freedom I have on weekday mornings, but I’m not going to focus so much on wishing for a new phase or focusing on a big life change in place of appreciating the phase God has me today. I’ll never find contentment and rest doing that.

Posted on April 25, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Trusting God with my miscarriage: Comforting Thoughts for those who grieve

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In May 2008, my husband and I bought our first home and had fun (well, I had fun) painting every room, replacing flooring, and installing new light fixtures, curtains, and blinds. Our new home had a small bedroom next to the master that was the perfect size for a nursery. But we had debt to get rid of so the plan was for me to keep working so that one day I could stay home when we had kids. So, while we knew we had the space, having a baby was on the back burner – way back on the back burner. The small bedroom became my home office.

In March 2009, I realized I was a bit late in my cycle. When I took the pregnancy test and it was positive, I felt fear instead of joy. I didn’t feel ready for kids. I had finally started losing some weight and still needed to work because our monthly budget was really tight. Even as I looked at the positive test I hoped that it was a false positive or that if not, it would somehow go away. I’m ashamed, mortified, and angry about that thought now. I had no idea what I was hoping for.

Our first appointment at the OB led us to a trip to the hospital to get a better ultrasound. Things didn’t look good. And they weren’t good. That was our first miscarriage. It wasn’t until we lost the baby that I realized how much I wanted the baby.

Then we had another miscarriage. And another. The third happened the week before Christmas in 2009. By then I was in a deep, dark well. I didn’t know how to come out of it and I didn’t want to come out of it.

I spent months crying in my car before and after work. I still went to church but couldn’t sing in service because every song made me cry. I didn’t go to church on Mother’s Day. I did what I had to in order to get through each day. I stayed home a lot. I rejoiced with friends who announced their pregnancies and then drove home and sobbed into my pillow. I went to baby showers and made frequent trips to the bathroom to cry. It truly was a dark and hopeless time.

In the midst of this grief, there were a few things that managed to keep me going. They didn’t take away the pain, but they helped me navigate and survive the dark waters of grief.

First, my faith in God carried me through. I fully believe I would have done something drastic (there were times I prayed and asked God to let me die) had it not been for the fact that I knew God loved me and hurt with me. I did ask Him a lot of questions though, like: Why do people who don’t want to have a baby deliver healthy babies? Why me? Romans 8:26 accurately depicts my prayer life in that time. More often than not, the Holy Spirit needed to intercede for me with groans too deep for words because I didn’t know how to pray. I also clung to Psalm 30:5b because it assured me that while the days and nights were dark, there would come a time when I would experience joy again.

Second, I found a group of women who had also experienced the loss of one or more babies. We met on a baby-focused website and after some time, a dozen of us formed a private group in Facebook where we shared, vented, encouraged, and rejoiced with each other. We’re spread across the country but I’ve been able to meet several of them over the nine years we’ve been connected. I had friends who lived near me, but at that point none of them had experienced a miscarriage and while they loved me, they couldn’t truly grasp my grief. I was so achingly lonely in that time of sorrow because I thought no one knew what I was feeling. Once I figured out that I needed to bond with women who understood what I was going through and I found the group, my loneliness eased. That group has been a huge source of healing for me.

Third, I decided to focus on something I could control. I couldn’t control my body and make it keep a baby safe, but I could control what I put in it and how I took care of it. I was overweight and decided to use that time to take control of my weight. I tracked what I ate and exercised and as I saw the number on the scale drop and felt the clothes loosen, I felt renewed and hopeful. I still had many moments of tears and despair, but being in control in just one area of life was a respite to the grief.

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I’ll never have a satisfying answer as to why I lost my babies. I don’t think there is one, but I choose to trust in God. I’ve also come to a realization: we live in a fallen world and tragic things happen as a result of living in a fallen world. Does that take away the pain? No. But it gives me some semblance of peace and closure now that I have distance from the rawness of the miscarriages.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, go to God. Cling to Him. Ask Him questions. We may never receive an answer that completely satisfies, but we can trust in His character when we look at the cross and meditate on Scripture. For example, Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” He can shoulder your pain. He wants to comfort you in your sorrow.

If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, know that you are not alone. Find a group online or that’s part of a church’s care ministry. My church has a care night where various groups meet and address specific needs and hurts. I wish I had that when I was in the middle of the pain.

And lastly, if you’ve experienced a miscarriage, find something healthy to focus on so you can have some sense of control when you feel like there isn’t anything you can control. Maybe it’s exercise or education. Dedicate yourself to a hobby you’ve been meaning to take up. It won’t take away the pain but it can distract you in a good way.

Posted on February 28, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.

Stand Before Him With Your Little Ones

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The living and active Word of God never ceases to amaze me. A passage I’ve known for years breathes new life into my current situation, and I walk away ready to face the day. As my circumstances threatened to overtake me this month, God flooded my heart with hope and direction through 2 Chronicles 20. I’d like to share it with you for when you face the overwhelming. It is a long passage, but it’s so worth it, so please stick with me!

After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites, came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly.15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's.16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.

18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.”21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”

22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

WOW. So much to encourage us, isn’t there? What captivated me most was verse 13, Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.” Three sets of enemies are on their way to attack them. Instead of running away with their families--their little ones--they stood. They stood before the Lord. I think it is significant that the verse separates children and little ones. Of course children were not expected to fight in the battle. Surely, it was commonplace to flee with little ones. Yet this is not what the nation did. They stood with their babies and they waited to see how God would respond. SIx times in the passage the word “stood” or “stand” is used. Here it describes their posture, but it also reveals the trust in their hearts.

I’m not sure this is my natural response…. When trials come, I often want to scoop up my babies and work my hardest to protect them from the pain of the world. Sometimes that’s what the Lord calls us to do as mothers. Still other times, our Savior is ready to rescue mightily--for our children to see. Stand firm! See the salvation of the Lord! If we try to protect our children every time a hardship comes, they will indeed miss out on the good, gracious, powerful hand of the Lord. He has limitless resources and abundant creativity to rescue us. His means of protection and provision far exceed our greatest imaginations.

I can’t tell you when to protect your children and when to let them watch; that distinction is for you to work out with Jesus on your own. Perhaps when our knuckles are most white, grasping the hardest for an escape is when we need to let go the most. When the tugging of the Lord on your heart makes the tears about to fall, He’s got you. Be still, and know. (Ps. 46:10) Sometimes the power to “stand” comes from being on our knees, and it isn’t a physical change, but a resoluteness with which we go forward.

That was encouragement enough, but God had more to show me. I had to reread the chapter three times to ensure I wasn’t missing something. The Lord didn’t tell them to worship. They worshipped out of expectation and urgency. Faith and hope collided into the perfect, deserved response of devotion.

No matter how great the battle, how daunting the circumstance, how necessary the preparations, the correct response will always be to worship. Not only is it what the Lord deserves, it can actually lead to our victory. “And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord sent an ambush” (v. 22)

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The best motion pictures have nothing on this! Multitudes are coming against these people. Can you sense the impending rumblings of the enemy vibrating on the ground? Can you see the dust rolling up from the coming attack? Do you feel your heart beating within your chest? Now do you hear the worship of God’s children louder than all of it?

They choose to stand.

They choose to worship.

Many people select a word or phrase to meditate upon or strive for in the new year, sometimes in place of a resolution, sometimes to go along with one. This January I chose “Worship” to be my word for the year. I didn’t necessarily understand why God was laying this word, this choice, on my heart, but as 2018 has unfolded, it is becoming quite clear.

Recently I shared that we were in the ER right before Christmas because my husband was having some concerning neurological symptoms. A CT scan ensured us that he had not had a stroke or a brain tumor, and we were incredibly thankful. More testing needed to be done, however, and the MRI revealed lesions on his brain. We have just learned he has Multiple Sclerosis. As we await more clarity on this unpredictable condition, I have a picture in my mind of my little family. The six of us are holding hands, and standing together in hope and faith.

 I clearly see my two choices. I will stand with my children, with my little ones, watching to see how God works on our behalf. And I will worship.

My sweet sister, I pray that the Lord gives you the strength to stand and worship as you mother--today and every day.

Posted on February 21, 2018 and filed under Building Your Faith.